Skip header information|
Wadsworth Center Home - Science in the Pursuit of Health| Portal State Agency Listing
Main Body

Newborn Screening Program

Archived Information and Updates

Archived Information and Updates

Contact Us

Contact Us

  • Mailing Address:
    Newborn Screening Program
    NYS Department of Health
    Wadsworth Center
    Empire State Plaza
    P.O. Box 509
    Albany, NY 12201-0509
  • Phone: (518) 473-7552
  • Email:

Sickle Cell Trait - The Family Connection

If you've been told, as the result of a blood test, that your child has Sickle Cell Trait, quite naturally, you're concerned. Questions are tumbling through your head. "What does it mean?" "Is the baby sick?" "Can it develop into Sickle Cell Anemia?" "Can other members of my family get it?"

Your Baby is Not Sick

First of all let us assure you that Sickle Cell Trait will not affect your baby's health. YOUR INFANT DOES NOT HAVE SICKLE CELL ANEMIA AND WILL NEVER DEVELOP THIS DISEASE.

Your Baby Inherited the Trait

Sickle Cell Trait, like hair color, general body build and other physical characteristics is passed down in the family from parent to child through the genes. Genes are the tiny bits of information contained in the father's sperm and the mother's egg that form a blueprint for the new life. Genes come in pairs; for each characteristic there is one gene from the mother and one form the father. One of these pairs of genes determines hemoglobin -- the substance that carries oxygen in your blood and gives it its red color.

If your baby has Sickle Cell Trait, it means that the baby inherited a normal hemoglobin gene from one parent and a changed or altered hemoglobin gene from the other parent. We refer to the usual gene as "All and the changed gene as 'IS." Your baby, therefore, has AS hemoglobin. THIS COMBINATION OF GENES DOES NOT CAUSE DISEASE.

However, there are some combinations of hemoglobin genes that can cause serious problems. If a baby inherits an 'IS" gene from both of his parents, he has SS Disease (Sickle Cell Anemia). If he inherits an 'IS" gene from one parent and a IICII gene from the other, he has SC Disease, a form of Sickle Cell Disease. These can be severe and disabling conditions.

The Family Connection

Why should the parents of a child with a hemoglobin trait be tested if the baby is healthy? It is because this knowledge provides a clue in a medical detective story that can predict whether your future children can be born Sickle Cell Disease. The fact that your baby has the trait tells us that at least one of the parents (either the mother or father) has the trait as well. IF ONLY ONE OF THE PARENTS HAS THE TRAIT THEN THE COUPLE CANNOT PRODUCE A CHILD WITH SICKLE CELL DISEASE. This will be reassuring news. However, a baby with trait may also be born to parents who both have hemoglobin traits. Such a couple can, in the future, have a child with Sickle Cell Disease.

 Follow this Link To Learn How It Works

What do the Test Results Mean?

As you can see, the results of the parents' blood tests will provide the answer to the question, "Can we have a baby with a sickling disorder?"

As long as one parent has the usual hemoglobin (AA), THE CHILDREN BORN TO THAT COUPLE WILL NOT HAVE SICKLE CELL DISEASE.

If both parents have Sickle Cell Trait (AS), there is a I in 4 risk with each pregnancy of having a child affected with Sickle Cell Anemia. If one parent has Sickle Cell Trait (AS), there is also a I in 4 risk with each pregnancy of having a child affected with SC Disease. In both cases, these parents should be counseled, and advised of their risks and options. There are new tests available that can diagnose for some couples at an early stage of pregnancy whether or not the fetus is affected with Sickle Cell Disease.

If only one parent is tested,, and found to have the trait, it is essential that the other parent be tested as well. otherwise, it may be impossible to predict whether or not that couple can have an affected baby.

You Are Not Alone

In this country, over 2 million people have Sickle Cell Trait, and more than 50,000 have Sickle Cell Disease. It is most common among Black Americans, and to a lesser extent among people of Hispanic origins, but it is also found in Greeks, Italians, East Indians, and Saudi Arabians, among others.

Sickle Cell Anemia is only one of many examples in which two health parents can produce a child with a genetic disease. Cystic Fibrosis, which is inherited in the same way, affects primarily Caucasians. Tay-Sachs disease is found mainly among Jews. Beta-Thalassemia (Cooley's Anemia) is found mainly among Italians and Greeks. Your new baby has undoubtedly brought much joy to your family. In addition, he or she has now added important knowledge that may protect your future children. It is important that both parents be tested and understand what the results of the tests mean.

For further information, contact your local sickle cell program.

State of New York Department of Health

Prepared by the Sickle Cell Education Subcommittee of the New York State Genetic Disease Program with funding from a grant from the Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.